The Col de la Loze has quickly made a name for itself among cyclists. In 2020, this new climb immediately debuted in the Tour and supposedly the extremely steep col will once again be the setting for a Tour finish in 2023. What not many people know is that Col de la Loze is just the beginning of the "Via 3 Vallées" project. Last year that plan was pauzed by corona, but now the French have resumed asphalting. An update.
The 3 Vallées ski area is the largest ski area in the world. The area been dreaming for years of becoming just as popular with professional and amateur riders as, for example, Bourg d'Oisans, Bédoin and Argelès-Gazost. However, with the current roads this will happen: as a cyclist you are usually condemned to riding back and forth. And that's a shame, because there are interesting cols in the vicinity such as the Cormet de Roselend and the Madeleine. Therefore, the project Via 3 Vallées was made up. In short, the idea is to connect the 3 valleys of the ski area with each other by car-free cycle paths, which will greatly improve the possibilities for round trips.
The first step of the project was the Col de la Loze (1 / bright pink line in the map below). Completed in 2019, this completely car-free col connects Méribel to Courchevel.
This summer they continued (after a year of corona delay) with part 2 of the project: the connection between Les Menuires and Méribel. The probable name: Col de Tougnète. The construction of the first part of the route (number 2, red section in the map) is now in full swing and is progressing well. The work should be finished by the end of October, says the sign on the left of the photo below.
In Les Menuires, the road is even almost completely finished.
The path lies beautifully in the landscape.
From Les Menuires to the summit at 2304m the red trail measures 7.2 km with an average gradient of 7.6%. That seems like a smooth climb, but appearances are deceiving. The finale is indeed steep: almost of the same caliber as the final kilometer of the Col de la Loze. Below the line, however, the climb is easier than the "goat path" Col de la Loze. In our opinion, that is a good thing. Climbing such a beast twice in one day is too much for many cyclists.
The main question is of course when the last part of the route (3, blue line) will be completed. According to our sources this will take some time: there are two possible routes to choose from (which yet has to be done). The French can only start building once all the snow has melted and that could take until deep into the spring. The planning is, however, that the route will open in the summer of 2022. This is by no means a guarantee: as always with French construction projects, powerful environmental groups and locals can throw a spanner in the works through petitions and lawsuits. In Méribel some locals who are against the trail are already founded a special Facebook group.
As soon as Via 3 Vallées is completed, it seems just a matter of time before the "Gran fondo Les 3 Vallées" will see the light of day. Such an event could quickly become a classic. This would not be the first gran fondo in the region, that honor goes to the Cyclo Col de la Loze by Brides-les-Bains.
We will continue to follow it.
With many thanks to Skifan, who also took all the photos in this article. You can find these and many other beautiful photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/skifan/albums